High school dropouts

Mill workers, young and old

My grandfather on my mother’s side was born in 1917 and made it as far as eighth grade graduation before dropping out of school completely.  For his generation, his education level wasn’t that bad, though it did set him up for an early life of odd jobs and scraping by to feed his young family.  Early in their marriage, he and my grandmother were migrant workers, chasing ripening crops from town to town, following the harvests.  My mother remembers living in a peach orchard when she was very, very young.

This photo of the mill workers reminded me of my grandfather, of being forced to drop out of school and work to eat, to live.  Fortunately,  the boy on the left (below) looks like he’s coping well, but many of those other young faces in the photo are looking pretty grim.

Young mill workers

Unfortunately, this isn’t only ancient history.  For far too many of our young people, their eighth grade diploma is still the last one they earn.  According to this news release from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction , in the 2006-2007 school year, California had a  high school graduation rate of   67.7 percent.  One online Wall Street Journal article estimates that only fifty percent of all high school students graduate in four years. Yikes.

Adults without a high school diploma will earn thousands of dollars less than their graduate peers, and will struggle more in any economy.  Home ownership and raising a family outside of poverty will remain only dreams for many.

Fortunately,  today there are options.  Students can get their GED (diploma equivilent) or go back to school through College of the Redwoods and other programs.   We can also support our students.  Encourage them.  We can recognize that even when college is on the horizon, earning a high school diploma is a big accomplishment and will improve their lives immeasurably.

4 Responses to High school dropouts

  1. AnjellaEl says:

    Interesting. My paternal grandparents were also migrant farm workers. They were Oklahoma Okies, and followed the crops in California. Eventually they landed in Humboldt and the lumber mills. I don’t think either of my grandparents went beyond 8th grade either. Nowadays, if you don’t have a high school diploma minimum, life is tough. A kid I know left school without getting his diploma a year ago and is now going to night school because he found out no one would hire him without it. I am amazed that the graduation rate is only 67.7%!

    • lynette77 says:

      I grew up in Rio Dell, and I think there were probably quite a few folks working in the mills that didn’t have diplomas… but back then those mill jobs paid well. And meant something to the people that worked there–those were loyal, company people and the companies treated them well.
      I remember getting jealous because all the PL employee kids got these great Christmas gifts every year. No more….

      We have a friend whose daughter didn’t graduate last june, and I don’t think she has any plans to try. Hopefully she’ll have the same realization as the kid you mentioned and go back (said with fingers crossed).

  2. […] history, as well as everything in between.  It is, strangely enough, also a good follow up to yesterday’s post about high school dropouts.  Though I know there are scams out there (and I know nothing about this particular online degree […]

  3. Ms. Everette says:

    I am so happy this article is on this blog because all your students need to understand without education they will not go far in life! Thank you so much for this wonderful eyeopener!

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